On 23 January 2018, Freshfel Europe and AREFLH, the European Assembly of fruit, vegetable and horticulture regions, organised a conference on the research priorities for the fruit and vegetable sector for the current Horizon 2020 funding programme and its successor, Framework Programme 9 (FP9).
The Brussels conference was organised in coordination with the two European university and research centre networks for fruit and vegetable related research, EUFRIN and EUVRIN.
During the conference, the four organisations joined forces to organise a pan-European multi-stakeholder meeting to review the state of play of research and innovation for the fruit and vegetables sector.
In 2014, the first conference served as the launch for a fruit and vegetables R&I Task Force, a first step towards the release of a Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA). This second event gathered close to 100 experts and aimed at further reinforcing the successful cooperation between the four organisations and offering a unique platform for discussion between business representatives, researchers, and representatives of the European institutions.
The meeting reviewed the current state of play and lessons learnt from the sector’s involvement in the Horizon 2020 funding programme, and the way forward towards the future funding programme FP9.
From the discussion, both fruit and vegetable business representatives and researchers endorsed the multi-actor approach that is demanded in many Horizon 2020 calls. Involving different types of actors in a consortium not only ensures a more practical focus on the real problems on the ground, but also allows for a fruit and vegetable supply chain perspective.
However, the trend towards broad, multi-product projects cannot highlight the sector’s specific problems: diversified products, perishability, different areas of production with specific challenges such as drought, and the sector’s added value in relation to health and sustainability.
The sector laments that fruit and vegetables remain under-represented within Horizon 2020, and that this is not reflecting the size of the sector in the economy and its societal and health benefits.
After the conference, the Task Force renewed its intention to continue working for better representation of the sector in successful EU funding programmes.
In the last four years, the sector has managed to showcase the existence of a well-functioning network and to increase its visibility. The next step for the Task Force is to remind policy makers of the main relevant messages for the sector, which the Task Force will accomplish via a joint statement and a renewal of the SIRA in light of future discussion regarding FP9.